The Houston Dynamo and the San Jose Earthquakes will add a new chapter to their rivalry – one of the better ones in MLS – at Robertson Stadium on Sunday night.
But in addition to bragging rights, the Dynamo want to win the game because it is simply and clearly the most important of the year for them, as it represents a possible six-point swing that could put Houston closer to the final playoff slot currently held by the Quakes.
“It’s three crucial points,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “San Jose are six points ahead of us with two games in hand, and the best way to gain ground on them is through head-to-head matchups.”
“Even preseason games have always been very intense,” noted Kinnear. “They always have been good games to be a part of. It brings out the best in competition from both teams, and I expect nothing different.”
However, most Dynamo players admit that while the rivalry is intriguing, it is completely irrelevant this week due to Houston’s desperate need for a victory. After coming off their most disappointing performance of the year, the Dynamo get a chance to try to turn their season around by emerging victoriously from the rivalry.
“Bottom line: We have to worry about ourselves and getting three points,” said Richard Mulrooney. “Whether there is a history of relocation, trades, fans, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Any more slip-ups or let-downs, we’re going to be looking at our offseason plans instead of the playoffs, and that’s a major concern for us.”
To have success against the Quakes, Houston will have to limit the opportunities in the box provided to former Dynamo forward Chris Wondolowski. The striker already has eight goals this year, matching his Houston career total in all competitions.
“We know Wondo very well, and he’s a great finisher,” said Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad. “A lot of the goals he has scored this year are vintage Chris Wondolowski goals, so we have to keep an eye on him inside the box.”
While Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis is back and healthy, fellow midfielder Anthony Obodai and forward Brian Ching are likely out due to injury. Thus, Kinnear will likely have his hands full trying to figure out how best to line up with so much riding on the outcome of the game.
“It’s a six-point swing,” said Bobby Boswell. “It is a home game for us, so what better time to start a run than at home? We’re playing a team that has always given us a physical game, and it’s a rivalry match, but it is all about the three points.”
Dwain Capodice is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com. Questions or comments can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.